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Who Do You Follow?

I don't often have a strong reaction one way or the other to people's Twitter updates - or "Tweets" - but this one from a friend of mine got me. He wrote: "Twitter is one of the few places where you need to be a good leader & follower at the same time - a unique dynamic."


I thought about this throughout the rest of the day - because I couldn't disagree more. One of the few places? Totally unique? I have a hard time coming up with places where a good leader doesn't also have to be a good follower! I mean, how often do leaders lead at the top - in a vacuum - with no one or thing to follow? Old-world kings and new-world dictators come to mind. But even presidents and prime ministers have to follow something - the rule of law, a constitution, a code of ethics (we hope), the wisdom of advisors, perhaps the will of the people.

While good leaders certainly do need to be able to "take the reigns," "put down the hammer," or let "the buck stop" with them and while good leaders are often called to step out, go places, or do things on their own (or ahead of others), I think the best leaders are always good followers.

It's true in my life. In the times I've led well, I've sought the wise council, followed smart guidelines, modeled a decision-making or leadership style on someone else's, and listened most keenly to God's call on my life.

My following as a leader has never diminished my leadership skills - nor has it meant that I wasn't leading as me. Following as a leader doesn't make me (or you or anyone ) a quasi-leader or an all-out fraud. So why do so many people think it does? Why do some think that leading means never following?

I'd like to hear what you all think, but I wonder if it isn't because we're slow to mention the people we follow: who our role models are, who's taught us, who advises us, who helps us, or whom we admire.

Last year when I wrapped up my first book project, the most fun part was writing the acknowledgements. So many people encouraged me and helped me and pushed me just when I needed it. While I "led" much of the project, I followed people all along the way. They deserved more than the brief mentions they got on one page of a book, but the process made me more mindful of the ways people help guide me and shape me as a leader in all areas of my life.

Since we kicked off this week (at least in the U.S.) remembering and honoring the heroes who died so that we could be free enough to write about women in leadership, I wonder if we can't also spend some time thanking the people we follow as we lead.

So who are they? Who are the people you follow as a leader? What makes you want to follow them?

P.S. You can follow GFL on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GFLblog or follow me at www.twitter.com/CarynRivadeneir

May26, 2009 at 2:48 PM

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